Vikings' Christian Ponder doesn't capitalize on second chance
After getting another chance at the start, Christian Ponder still struggled.
By BRIAN HALL FS North
MINNEAPOLIS -- Sunday night was the opportunity
Christian Ponder had waited for since a fractured rib took him out of the starting lineup for the
Minnesota Vikings a month ago.
He was getting another chance to seize claim to the starting quarterback spot that had been his for more than two years and 29 consecutive regular-season starts. There's no telling when, or if, he will have another opportunity for Minnesota.
Ponder was 14 of 21 passing for 145 yards in Sunday night's 44-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers. He didn't thrive in his chance at redemption and the Vikings' offense didn't have many chances in total as Green Bay held a 40 minutes, 54 seconds to 19:06 advantage in time of possession, and Minnesota will head into another week with uncertainty at the most important position.
"We'll sit down tomorrow and talk it through and figure out what's the best way to go," coach Leslie Frazier said.
Ponder, who admitted to feeling pressure in the season's first three games, said he was more relaxed coming into Sunday night, the time away helping him to see what was needed to lead the offense.
But he looked reluctant to throw and quickly pulled the ball down feeling pressure Sunday, taking off to run five times on called pass plays and being sacked three other times.
"I thought things slowed down a little bit out there," Ponder said. "I was more relaxed and I felt more in control of things."
Ponder had to wait for his opportunity.
Minnesota was set to get the opening kickoff, and
Cordarrelle Patterson electrified the Metrodome crowd with a 109-yard kickoff return. Then Green Bay held the ball for 14 plays, 90 yards and 7 minutes, 24 seconds.
Ponder didn't get to touch the ball until 7:16 into the first quarter. And once he got the ball, he didn't keep it for long. Minnesota was unable to sustain drives, finishing with 243 yards of total offense and was 2 of 8 on third downs.
The Vikings did take advantage of two pass interference penalties on two touchdown drives. With 21 seconds left in the first half, the Packers' Tramon Williams was called for pass interference, giving Minnesota the ball at the 14-yard line and two plays later,
Adrian Peterson scored on an 8-yard touchdown run.
"He had some moments where he did some good things," Frazier said of Ponder. "For example, the 2-minute drive was good. There was a couple of times where he ran our offense pretty good. There were times where he wasn't as comfortable as you'd like to see him in the pocket, but he did some positive things as well."
Ponder got the start Sunday night because Josh Freeman had dealt with a concussion earlier in the week. Freeman passed his concussion testing and practiced Friday, but Minnesota held him out Sunday night without the benefit of the days of preparation.
Freeman should be ready to return this week, but the Vikings haven't announced who will start next week at Dallas. Matt Cassel, who led Minnesota to its only win of the season, was the backup to Ponder on Sunday night.
Ponder might have had his last chance as the starter though.
"I wasn't thinking about that and I'm not thinking about that now," Ponder said after the game. "What I'm focused on is getting this team turned around and winning games. That stuff is out of my control. I can control what I do on the field, what this offense does on the field and that call is out of my hands."
Allen is thinking about trade rumors: With the trade deadline coming on Tuesday, defensive end Jared Allen's name is a topic of conversation, especially with Minnesota now at 1-6 this season.
FOX Sports' Jay Glazer reported Sunday that Minnesota has at least had conversations about whether to trade Allen, a 10-year veteran who is in the final year of his contract with the Vikings. Glazer reported Minnesota would be willing to trade Allen "for the right price." Glazer reported teams would have to give the Vikings more than a third-round pick, since the team would receive third-rounder as compensation if he signed with another team in free agency.
Allen said he's not thinking about the potential to be moved this week, but knows anything could happen.
"Nah, you know what? It's not even something I'm going to worry about right now," Allen said after Sunday's game. "I've got no control of that stuff. It is what it is. I understand the league. I understand how it works. I'm not an idiot. But my goal is to play football. My goal is to go out and play and win. I just go out every Sunday and I give it everything I got. Sometimes its spectacular, sometimes you get double-teamed, and sometimes you just can't get there in time and sometimes you lose. But losing in this kind of fashion is, I don't know how to explain it."
Allen signed a six-year, $73.2 million contract with the Vikings after being acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs. In the final year of his deal, he is making a $14.28 million base salary, which could be restrictive in any potential trade.
Asked if he would be open to a trade, Allen avoided the topic.
"Honestly, I'm not even going to address it," Allen said. "I'm not going to speculate on something that I haven't had a conversation about. And I'm not going to speculate on something that hasn't happened. I cross all bridges when I get to them and right now I'm trying to figure out a way for us to make this defense better."
Avoiding cracking: Losing their third straight game and the season now spiraling downward, Minnesota tried to avoid the pitfalls that can come with a bad season. Running back Adrian Peterson, who had 13 carries for 60 yards, said it's up to the team's leaders to keep the team from cracking.
"Yeah, of course," Peterson said when asked if he needs to take charge to avoid the team splitting. "Of course, that's what the leaders do on this team. If we start cracking, then the rest of the team will start cracking as well. So, stay positive as possible and just continue to work."
Peterson tried to keep a positive frame of mind, despite the third-straight loss.
"You still got hope," Peterson said. "Like you said, mathematically we're not out of it. So, that's what I hold on to."
Frazier said he isn't worried about losing his team.
"Tonight was tough because they worked hard this week to prepare for this game and got off to a great start with the kickoff and to not play better in third down situations on defense, it hurts you," Frazier said. "But I don't know if it hurts you to the point where guys give in. It seems like we have strong enough character and strong enough leadership on this team that the guys will come back and prepare well for this next ball game. We do need to give them some hope and do some things better than what we're doing. We just got to find a way to give them some hope for all the hard work that they're putting in."